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Wednesday, 15 May, 2002, 16:17 GMT 17:17 UK
Ugandan Siamese twins 'saved'
Dr Eric Strauch holding a picture of the conjoined twins at a press conference
It took 35 doctors 12 hours to separate the twins
Doctors at the University of Maryland Hospital for Children in the United States say they have successfully separated conjoined - or Siamese - twin girls from Uganda.

The six-month old twins were joined at the torso, from the breastbone to the navel.

They have been smiling and laughing just like six-month-olds do.

Dr Cindy Howard
A team of doctors who performed the 12-hour operation say the six-month-old girls - Louice and Christine - seem to be thriving and have a good chance of leading normal lives.

If the twins had not been separated, they probably would have died as toddlers, the doctors said.

The twins and their parents flew from Uganda to Baltimore in February, where doctors began to investigate how to separate the infants.

On 19 April, the twins underwent surgery - a marathon operation involving a team of 35 doctors.

'Like to coo'

"They have been smiling and laughing just like six-month-olds do," said Dr Cindy Howard of Maryland's medical school, who arranged for the twins to be treated in the United States.

"They like to touch each other's face and they like to coo and babble together.

"But in general I think they are enjoying being separated because we can hold them and they can turn over and sit up," she said.

Dr Eric Strauch, a paediatric surgeon who helped in the operation, told reporters the case was an unusual piece of good news, because less than half of all conjoined twins can be separated successfully.

He said conjoined twins occur once in every 200,000 live births.

Only 25% or less of conjoined twins survive, and often one twin must be sacrificed to save the other, depending on which organs they share.


Louice and Christine Onziga were born facing one another, connected from the top of the breastbone to the umbilical cord.

They shared a liver, diaphragm and heart.

They'll be normal, healthy little girls

Dr Cindy Howard

Their father, Gordon Onziga, farms potatoes, cassava, peanuts, rice and other crops on his farm in the village of Leiko, in northern Uganda.

Their mother Margaret had planned to give birth at home as is customary in the area, but was taken by bus to the nearest hospital in the city of Arua when complications developed.

When conjoined twins were born, doctors sent the family by bus to Uganda's capital, Kampala.

Bicycle sold

Dr Cindy Howard, who just happened to be on an exchange programme in Kampala at the time, believed an operation to divide them would succeed.

She helped to arrange for the hospital in Baltimore to do the operation - for no fee - and for several charities to help support the Onziga family's trip.

Mr Onziga sold his bicycle to help fund the trip and family and friends raised 500,000 shillings - about $325 or a year's wages - to help pay.

"This has been the most satisfying experience in my entire career," said Dr Howard, who is confident that the girls will now thrive.

"We really think that by the time they are 12 to 18 months they will begin to catch up and they'll be normal, healthy little girls," said the doctor who has been a paediatrician for 25 years.

Louice and Christine are expected to remain in United States for a few more months while doctors monitor their progress.

See also:

01 May 02 | Health
'Chances slim' for Siamese twins
30 Apr 02 | Health
Heart-share twins: The risks
25 Aug 00 | Q-S
Siamese twins
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